They announced Wednesday that 48 Republicans and 190 Democrats support their plan to vote on four different proposals…
(Andrea Drusch, McClatchy Washington Bureau) WASHINGTON — In Texas, a super PAC aligned with GOP House leadership is eagerly promoting Rep. Will Hurd’s work on immigration and security.
But in Washington, on some of the issues Hurd knows best, they’re pushing his ideas aside.
That dynamic puts Hurd, normally a favorite of his party’s leaders, at unusual odds with them over the most pressing issues in his district.
Two months after the Supreme Court upended President Donald Trump’s plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, GOP leaders on both sides of the Capitol are steering clear of an immigration and border security fight that could pit their members against each other before the November midterms.
In lieu of a DACA deal, Trump asked for National Guard troops to secure the border and congressional leaders have moved onto other legislative priorities.
Hurd, a 40-year-old San Antonio native, is one of three congressional Republicans whose district shares a border with Mexico. His district spans nearly a third of the roughly 1,200-mile U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other lawmaker in the country.
He also represents roughly 4,000 DACA recipients, in a district that’s nearly 70 percent Hispanic.
He and fellow Republican Jeff Denham, R-Calif., are floating an obscure legislative tactic almost never successfully used on Capitol Hill to bypass GOP leaders. The congressmen want to force votes on proposals to provide a solution for DACA recipients and secure the border.
They announced Wednesday that 48 Republicans and 190 Democrats support their plan to vote on four different proposals, including one crafted by Hurd.
If a majority of lawmakers — at the moment 216— sign a petition requesting such a vote, they can bring the plans to the floor without leadership’s permission. Denham says that could be a next step, if leaders don’t return to the issue on their own.
“National Guard along the border is a Band-Aid — we have to address the real problems,” said Hurd told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday.
“We don’t have operational control of the border,” added Hurd. “I know that because I have 820 miles (in my district) and I am down there all the time.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., downplayed Hurd’s idea this week, saying it could result in the House passing a bill President Donald Trump won’t sign.
Democrats need to flip 23 seats to take control of the House in November. Hurd is among the seats they’re targeting.
But his plan could force other vulnerable lawmakers to take tough votes on an issue that divides Republican lawmakers, just months before potentially difficult 2018 re-election races.
“It’s politically fraught, frankly,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas Republican strategist who has worked for both of the state’s senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
“For Will, those proposals do reflect the politics of his district,” said Steinhauser. “But if you’re leadership and you’re looking at a national election, and you’re looking at members from districts that are all over the country especially in places like Ohio and Florida that could flip, they’re probably thinking we need to take that hard line on border security.”
“Some of these other things, like giving the (DACA recipients) a pathway to citizenship … it can create a political problem with the base,” said Steinhauser.
Other Republicans in California and parts of Florida share Hurd’s concern for finding a DACA solution before November. Some of them called for GOP leadership to vote on one before Christmas.
“If Republicans were smart, they would put Hurd out front on a DACA solution and immigration reform,” said Chuck Rocha, a Texas Democratic strategist who specializes in Latino outreach.
GOP leaders agree Hurd’s credentials on those issues are unparalleled. He’s one of just two black Republicans in House, and losing him in 2018 could hurt the party’s ability to connect with minority voters, as well as navigate challenging immigration issues.
Congressional Leadership Fund, the Ryan-aligned super PAC, sent volunteers to knock on 13,000 doors urging Hurd’s re-election this month, specifically highlighting his “bipartisan” work “fixing a broken immigration system.”
“We’re absolutely listening to Will,” said Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who faces his own tough re-election race in suburban Houston. “He’s so knowledgeable, he does his homework … and represents more of the border than any other member of Congress.”
But Culberson said he’d also prefer a plan crafted by House conservatives, which calls for much tougher border measures than Hurd’s plan.
Hurd eagerly defended his ideas to border hard-liners. He’s led multiple tours to the border where he shows fellow lawmakers the physical challenges of building a wall.
He also contends he’s no squish when it comes to border security. Hurd spent nearly a decade working for the CIA in conflict zones, and worked in cybersecurity for he came to Congress.
Hurd crafted his own border security plan with Denham earlier this year, relying on technology to monitor the border in many places. That approach would replace physical barriers in places where it’s impractical, like Big Bend National Park, which is in Hurd’s district.
Hurd said Wednesday that a focus on “hiring and retention” of border security agents, as well as better technology to “extend their capabilities” are “real fixes that make sure we will get operational control of our border.”
“I actually believe the president wants to see this get done,” said Hurd. “Let’s get something in front of his desk, and let him make that decision.”
©2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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